The need for the Epicurean concept of “the pursuit of happiness” in the European Union
(Abstract of the oral presentation at the 26th International Conference of Greek Philosophy on ” Moral and political issues of our global era” , Vouliagmeni, Athens, Greece, 12-17 July 2014)
In an era of socioeconomic crisis, there is accumulating evidence that in almost all European Union (EU) countries (including Greece) over 60% of people declare that they feel unhappy or unsatisfied with life. The evidence is not circumstantial, since the unhappiness trend of most EU countries is similar for forty years, according to Eurobarometers data since 1975. Obviously, it is not irrelevant that the policies of EU aim in economic prosperity and not in well-being of people. This notion reflects the fact that the right to pursue happiness is not included in the 54 articles of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2010/C 83/02).
The absence of this right is not coincidental, but it is philosophically deliberate, since it is well known that one of the main foundations of European civilization is philosophy. The two main philosophies that shape the background of modern European thinking is the Neoplatonic/Christian Center-right Europeanism and the Stoic/Kantian Enlightenment Center-left Europeanism according to Nebredo (Doctorate thesis, University of Bergen, 2009). None of these two philosophical approaches seem to be interested mainly in human individual well-being.
On the other hand, Aristotle and Epicurus realized that the purpose of philosophy is happiness (well-being). Epicurus taught that happiness corresponds to absence of mental and physical pain and may be attained though observation of nature, prudence, free will, virtue and friendship. Many centuries later, in 1776, the
main author of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, influenced by Epicurus’ teachings,included among basic human rights the right of pursuit of happiness.
In 2012, the United Nations decided to recognize that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal and right, designating the 20th of March of every year as International day of Happiness. It is self-evident that the recognition of the fundamental human right of happiness in the European Union is a historic need for Europeans, in order to change their way of thinking and policies towards a brighter and happier future.
(The full text of the speech in English : http://www.epicuros.gr/arthra/Yapijakis_EU_Happiness_Need.pdf)